The small-sized frugivorous bat Carollia perspicillata is an understory specialist and occurs in a wide range of lowland habitats, tending to be more common in tropical dry or moist forests of South and Central America. Its sister species, Carollia brevicauda, occurs almost exclusively in the Amazon rainforest. A recent phylogeographic study proposed a hypothesis of origin and subsequent diversification for C. perspicillata along the Atlantic coastal forest of Brazil. Additionally, it also found two allopatric clades for C. brevicauda separated by the Amazon Basin. We used cytochrome b gene sequences and a more extensive sampling to test hypotheses related to the origin and diversification of C. perspicillata plus C. brevicauda clade in South America. The results obtained indicate that there are two sympatric evolutionary lineages within each species. In C. perspicillata, one lineage is limited to the Southern Atlantic Forest, whereas the other is widely distributed. Coalescent analysis points to a simultaneous origin for C. perspicillata and C. brevicauda, although no place for the diversification of each species can be firmly suggested. The phylogeographic pattern shown by C. perspicillata is also congruent with the Pleistocene refugia hypothesis as a likely vicariant phenomenon shaping the present distribution of its intraspecific lineages. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 102, 527–539.